NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes the visit this weekend by Japan's premier, Shinzo Abe, will be a major step in transforming India into an economic powerhouse with Japan's help in building bullet trains, "smart cities" and accessing nuclear technology.
India and Japan are set to sign a $15 billion agreement for a high-speed train linking the Indian financial hub of Mumbai with Ahmadabad, the commercial capital of Modi's home state, Gujarat. The train would cut travel time on the 315-mile route from eight hours to two.
For Japan, still smarting from losing out to China over a similar agreement in Indonesia, firming up the Indian deal was crucial. Tokyo has promised technical and financial support to New Delhi for the project, including a low-interest 50-year Japanese loan.
The deal would benefit Japanese companies with contracts for manufacturing rail cars, tracks, and operating systems.
Other major priorities during Abe's three-day visit include discussions on a civil nuclear agreement, military purchases for India's armed forces, and Japanese aid to upgrade India's creaking infrastructure.
As India tries to balance its economic growth with sustainable development, New Delhi is keen to increase its use of nuclear power but the two sides are still some distance away from a nuclear deal.
Analysts said that Japan, which has long been seen as a pacifist nation and a firm supporter of nuclear nonproliferation, will have strong reservations about signing a civil nuclear agreement with India, because New Delhi has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
"Tokyo will want some kind of commitment from India that it will not conduct a nuclear test. But India will have concerns about its strategic autonomy being curbed if it agrees to conditionalities," said Lalima Varma, professor of Japanese studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"While it's unlikely a civil nuclear deal will be signed during this visit, the two sides will air their concerns. That could be construed as progress," she said.